Leica Fieldsports Photographer of the Year 2015
The full results of our 2015 competition.
The Leica Fieldsports Photographer of the Year competition has once again unearthed some incredible talent. Despite being in only its second year, from the moment we called for entries in the February/March issue of Fieldsports, we were positively overwhelmed, both in terms of the number and quality of images submitted.
With in excess of 750 photographs received across all five categories – Game shooting, Stalking, Fly fishing, Gundogs and Other – it was obvious from the outset that our judges were going to have a real challenge on their hands. Although there were strong entries across the board, there were two categories that really stood out this year: ‘Gundogs' and ‘Other', both of which received more than 250 submissions each. From the latter, the hunting images were particularly impressive.
Over and above the criterion of capturing the magic and allure of the respective sport or subject portrayed, the judges were also looking for photographs that exhibited great technical skill and ability with a camera, a natural eye for composition and aesthetics, and attention to detail in the processing of the digital file.
“A top fieldsports photographer should possess all of these skills,” says judge Tarquin Millington-Drake. “But the one that is perhaps most often overlooked is the processing of images, a key skill of a modern digital photographer. I am not referring to falsifying images in Photoshop, but ensuring that you get the most out of your photograph. We found some images infuriating because if they were just a little sharper or processed better they would have scored a lot higher.”
Winner: Sue Bird
Camera: Nikon D810
Lens: Nikkor AF-S 70–200mm f/2.8G ED VRII
Focal length: 165mm
“I have enjoyed hunting for many years – both mounted and now as a foot follower – armed with my camera, following Chiddingfold, Leconfield and Cowdray hounds every hunting day. This image was taken on February 18, 2015, and is of the hounds being led by huntsman Adrian ‘Sage' Thompson, trotting down a farm track following a meet at Rotherbridge, near Petworth, West Sussex. My grandson, Jacob, who is three years old, has been out hunting several times with me, and absolutely loves it. We had walked from the meet listening for hounds and stopped at the edge of the track. Jacob was very excited and danced around as he heard them coming. As Sage approached us, he held up his hand and asked Jacob if he was having fun. The image illustrates the very special rapport that Sage has with all the young followers, both the mounted and tiniest ‘footies', encouraging them to enjoy the hounds as he is conscious that they are the future of hunting. The photo was taken at the beginning of the day following the first trail and we went on to have a really great scenting day with lots of fun for everyone, great hound work and some wonderful countryside for the field to follow over. After the horses and hounds were boxed up, as is usual for our hunt, we all enjoyed tea and cakes and then my usually quite shy grandson gave Sage an enormous hug and thanked him for “the best day”.
“This is a perfect example of what this competition is all about,” said Fieldsports Magazine editor, Marcus Janssen. “It ticks all of the boxes. Not only is it beautifully composed, perfectly in focus and pin-sharp, but it conveys the essence of what hunting means to so many people – the camaraderie, the excitement, the tradition and rituals, the ambience and sheer joy of being out in the countryside with friends, horses and hounds. A truly wonderful image.”
Runner-up: Alan Ward
Camera: Canon 1DX
Lens: Canon 500mm + 1.4 converter
Focal length: 700mm
“I was on the Isle of Uist photographing short-eared owls and Arctic terns in August last year when, on one particular evening, I noticed some snipe flighting into an area of marshland near a road. I had never photographed snipe before, but the light was perfect, the position of the sun was good, and there was a nice backdrop of yellow crops, so I decided to sieze the opportunity. I proceeded to stalk into the area on my hands and knees as slowly as possible, so as not to spook the birds. I eventually got within 15 yards or so when one or two of the snipe got up and darted off. I knew that in order to get the image I wanted, I would need to be ready with the camera near my eye. After a while one of the remaining snipe got up. I managed to lock the focus on just in time – I had just a fraction of a second and at f/5.6 there was a slight delay, but I hit the shutter release just as the snipe curled towards me. The greatest challenge was having to hand-hold the equipment – not easy with with a 500mm lens and 1.4X converter. But it was over so quickly and as soon as I saw the image in the viewfinder, I knew I had got the shot. The composition couldn't have been better. And of course snipe are so eratic in flight, so I guess there was an element of luck. It was just one of those magical moments when everything came together perfectly.”
“A technically brilliant image – and very, very difficult to achieve,” commented judge Tarquin Millington-Drake. Although this was unquestionably one of the most technically impressive and difficult to achieve photographs submitted this year – and it deserves the highest recognition for these reasons – all three judges felt that in the all-important criterion of conveying the magic and allure of game shooting, it fell short. But only just.
Gundogs: Amy Marks
Camera: Canon 1D MK IV
Lens: Canon 70-200mm 2.8
Focal length: 70mm
“This photo was taken on a training day in Loggerheads, Staffordshire, with my friend David Ross, who is a gundog trainer. This is Kai, his new springer spaniel puppy who, on this occasion, had been brought out for a couple of hours to watch the other dogs in action. He also provided me with an opportunity for some cute photos! Kai is now well on his way to becoming a working gundog.”
Stalking: Maxime Landrot
Camera: Canon EOS 40D
Lens: Canon 300mm f4 L USM
Focal length: 300mm
“I took this image on April 31, 2014, at around 8pm, just before sunset. It was taken in the French countryside, near my home in Charroux, a small village in Poitou-Charentes. Stalking season wasn't open yet but, as every stalker will know, you don't wait for the shooting season to explore your territory. On this particular evening I met this young buck in a wheat field. He was so busy eating wild flowers that I managed to get really close after a long, slow and careful approach. I stopped at 30 yards and he just came towards me until he was 10 yards away. I could even hear his munching! I was only able to see his antlers and a part of his head, but the camera's autofocus allowed me to capture a beautiful green bokeh around the deer. A great memory.“
Fly fishing: Jamie Reddihough
Camera: iPhone 4
Focal length: 3.85mm
Shutter: 1/190 sec
“This photo was taken on November 25, 2010, at the back-end of the salmon season on the Tweed at West Learmouth. We had some picture-perfect moments with the snow and sunshine but there were also some major spells of brutally cold and windy weather. For a 20-minute period on this day, it really started snowing hard and there was a strong wind. My brother was opposite the hut in the boat while we were hiding inside, looking out through foggy window. The contrast of the snow-covered boat on the black water looked amazing, so I decided to brave the cold and head outside. My Canon 5D and lens had other ideas, though, and completely fogged up. Not one to miss a photo opportunity, I thought I would try my iPhone instead. My fingers were pretty numb so trying to press the screen to focus and then hit the shutter release was hard enough but the phone struggled as well with the snow falling so heavily. Out of about 10 attempts, one came out perfectly.”
Game shooting: Steve Magennis
Camera: Nikon D3
Lens: Nikkor 200-400mm f4
Focal length: 330mm
“This image was taken on a commissioned shoot in Shropshire last year. My brief was to be creative with the images I captured, trying to bring out more of the artistic elements of a driven shoot day. This particular Gun shot incredibly well, taking into account the movement of the boat and the fact that it leaked! As the photographer, the warm winter light at the end of the day enabled me to create, by moving my point of view, this high-key image.”
Other: Verity Johnson
Camera: Canon 5D MK 3
Lens: Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8 L USM
Focal Length: 200mm
“This was one of the first autumn meets of the Tynedale Hunt in September 2014. It was a 6am start from a John Carr's farm, Camp Hill, near Barrasford, Northumberland. The two riders are Charlie Shirley Beavan M.F.H. and my daughter Venetia Johnson, who were watching the hounds work from a great vantage point, sourrounded by the heather in bloom. It was one of those beautiful mornings when the colours of the countryside were just magical, and the huntsman and hounds were an absolute pleasure to watch. Venetia is wearing an old hacking jacket belonging to my mum (now aged 79) when she hunted with the Tynedale, and Venetia is riding my horse, so it's a photo that means a lot to me.”